Our 2003 Million-Dollar Home Special Report

Local commentator Lee Cullum’s take on the McMansion phenomenon, the top 10 residential real estate deals in Dallas-Fort Worth, and products that will give your house the million-dollar look.

Our 2003 Million-Dollar Home Special Report
Though 2003 was not a banner year, million-dollar homes in the Dallas area still sold, big houses got bigger, and local vendors offered new and luxurious trimmings “from bread keepers to towel warmers and custom stone and ironwork. As per usual, Dallas did it all with style.

The Top 10 Real Estate Deals
Here are the biggest residential transactions of the past year, the war in Iraq and slow economy notwithstanding.

by Dawn McMullan

Last year the highest-priced residential deal was $11.5 million. Two years before that it was $30 million. The high sale this year $5.9 million is a sign that the high-end real estate market is laying low.

It’s a raging bull market for anything around $500,000, but anything more than $2 million is very hard, says Ebby Halliday Realtor Joe Kobell, the listing agent on the property that tops this year’s list. The eight-month buildup of going to war just stopped the high-end market, he says. And the big companies aren’t relocating senior executives like they used to.

Others say it’s the $600,000 to $1.5 million market that’s really at a standstill. Everyone agrees, however, that the low-end buyers are taking advantage of incredibly low interest rates, but those in the upper stratospheres of home buying aren’t letting go of their cash so easily.

The high-end real estate market has definitely been hit, says Realtor Eleanor Mowery Sheets of Eleanor Mowery Sheets & Associates. I am seeing a bit more activity these days, but most sellers have had to realize a different pricing level than they had initially thought. We’ve had to make some adjustments after 9/11 and the war. People are moving forward “but cautiously.

The war in Iraq stunted the start of the real estate year, which usually blooms in the spring. Instead, it really didn’t get started until the summer. Regardless, multimillion-dollar deals have been made. With the invaluable help of the Dallas-based North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (NTREIS), we compiled this list of the top 10 highest-dollar residential deals in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, and Kaufman counties from June 1, 2002, to June 1, 2003.

Five of the homes that made the list are in Dallas (three in Old Preston Hollow and two in Preston Hollow), two are in Highland Park, one in University Park, and two are in “drum roll, please” Plano (both in Willow Bend). Take a look at what the high-end real estate buyers are buying in this lackluster economy.

1. 4012 Glenwick Ln., University Park
LISTING PRICE: $5.90 million
Realtors: Joe Kobell, Ebby Halliday (listing agent); Madeline Jobst, Briggs-Freeman (selling agent)
This Mediterranean villa, built in the Volk Estates area in 2001, is the highest-priced residential deal from June 2002 to June 2003, according to MLS. The 7,000-square-foot house was designed by Smith-Ekbiad Architects with landscape design by Robert Bellamy. The estate, which sold in May, wasn’t built for resale but customized for its owners, who spent several years designing it but lived there only a short time before being transferred out of state. The house is constructed of concrete and steel, featuring $500,000 in electronics, five living areas, four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, seven wood-burning fireplaces (including one outside), an eight-car heated garage, and a 2,100-square-foot guesthouse.

2. 5600 Champions Dr., Plano
LISTING PRICE: $5.40 million
Realtors: Mark Holland, Re/Max (listing agent); Donna Thomas, Keller-Williams (selling agent)
A 5-year-old European-style estate within Willow Bend with a magnificent drive-up view: the front entrance features an Italian fountain and is framed by two soaring limestone columns, balustrades, and trim. Architect Elby Martin designed the house, and landscape architect Harold Leidner’s work appears on the surrounding property. The gated estate sold in March after seven months on the market. The 12,000-square-foot house features a spacious backyard, a state-of-the-art theater with leather chairs manufactured in Germany, six bedrooms, seven full baths (two with speakers in the shower), three half baths, maid’s quarters, and five fireplaces, including one with a mid-19th-century Louis XVI-style mantel.

3. 8787 Jourdan Way, Dallas
LISTING PRICE: $5.25 million

Realtors: Carole Hoffman, Ellen Terry (listing agent); Cindy O’Gorman, Ebby Halliday (selling agent)
Built in 1937 and partially remodeled, this Preston Hollow estate sold in July 2002 after five months on the market. The 9,500-square-foot home sits on 2.85 acres and features four bedrooms, six full baths, two half baths, six fireplaces, and five living areas. The grounds include a tennis court and border a private lake. The previous owner didn’t finish renovations, though he poured $6 million into the house before the property sold.

4. 4655 Meadowwood Rd., Dallas
LISTING PRICE: $4.99 million

Realtor: Eleanor Mowery Sheets, Eleanor Mowery Sheets & Assoc. (listing and selling agent)
This Tuscan-style Preston Hollow estate was built in 2001 by Cy Barcus and was on our list last year (also at No. 4), with an asking price of $6.2 million. The house sits on 1.8 acres and is approached by a circular drive complete with a stone bridge over a stream. The home’s previous owners relocated to Highland Park, and a Las Colinas family who loved the Preston Hollow area moved in. The 7,717-square-foot house features a family room with a Louis XVI carved limestone mantel; six bedrooms; six full baths, including one marble bath with mosaic inserts; two half baths (one powder room has an 18th-century Spanish basin); three fireplaces, including one in the master bedroom; sports court; and a kitchen with natural slate countertops and sable-stained floors. And this is the only house in Dallas that can boast groined vault ceilings.

5. 2100 Willow Bend Dr., Plano
LISTING PRICE: $4.90 million
Realtors: Cindy O’Gorman, Ebby Halliday (listing agent); Brooke Hunt, Ebby Halliday (selling agent)
Nestled on 3 acres, this European-style, 12,232-square-foot manor backs up to the Gleneagles Golf Course and White Rock Creek. The new owners purchased the home after returning to Dallas. The ceiling of the family theater features a reproduction of Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel (God reaching out to touch Adam’s hand), an auto showroom (translation: garage) that doubles as a ballroom, two climate-controlled wine cellars that accommodate more than 6,000 bottles, an elevator, an exercise room, and a limestone gazebo with gold-leaf dome.

6. 4237 Armstrong Pkwy., Highland Park
LISTING PRICE: $4.80 million

Realtors: David Nichols, David Griffin & Co. (listing agent); Madeline Jobst, Briggs-Freeman (selling agent)
Location, location, location. This 1935 English Tudor sits on a large, private corner lot on one of Highland Park’s most prestigious streets. When it sold in February after about nine months on the market, it was the highest sale in Highland Park since May 2002. The previous owners moved to a larger home in Preston Hollow, while the new homeowners upgraded from another home in Dallas. Previous remodeling had taken the original architecture into consideration, making it difficult to tell where one remodeling project ended and another began. The three-story home features six bedrooms, six full baths, two half baths, a sunroom with slate-and-limestone flooring, leaded glass windows and door, and a limestone mantel over the fireplace.

7. 4004 Euclid Ave., Highland Park
LISTING PRICE: $4.49 million
Realtors: Doris Jacobs, Allie Beth Allman & Assoc. (listing agent); Pancho Hunt, Virginia Cook (selling agent)
On the market for less than six months before it sold in May, this 10,000-square-foot contemporary home on 1.07 acres in Old Highland Park was built in 1953 and completely renovated in 2000. It has five bedrooms; five full baths, several of which feature Greek Thassos marble vanities; a master shower carved from a single piece of New Verde marble; two half baths; a two-story library with Norwegian rose marble desktop on cherry base, four bar areas; an 1,100-square-foot, three-room apartment; pool with cabana; and tennis court. This home appeared on last year’s list of top residential real estate deals at No. 2 with a list price of $7.5 million (which the owners didn’t get; sources say this list price is much closer to the home’s value). The previous homeowners weren’t there long before a travel-intensive job convinced them to sell. And what do the new owners plan to do with all of this luxury? Tear it down and build a grand Italian villa of their own design.

8. 9784 Audubon Pl., Dallas
LISTING PRICE: $3.99 million

Realtors: Penny Helms Rivenbark, Ebby Halliday (listing agent); Ginger Nobles, Briggs-Freeman (selling agent)
The late Harlan Ray, a Texas oil man, had this Southern plantation built in 1963 on just under 2.5 acres in the estate area of Old Preston Hollow. Last October, another oil family purchased it. Because the home backs up to Ursuline Academy, Realtor Penny Rivenbark first tried to contact computer guru Bill Gates about this listing because his wife is one of Ursuline’s best supporters. But Bill was out of the country and lost out when a contract was put on the house within one day of it going on the market. Too bad, Bill. The home was built for grand-scale entertaining; hence the large reception rooms and 12-foot ceilings. The new owners are planning about $2.5 million in renovations. 

9. 9762 Audubon Pl., Dallas
LISTING PRICE: $3.95 million
Realtors: Charme Gallini, David Harvey & Assoc. (listing agent); Bettie Hager, Briggs-Freeman (selling agent)
Yet another Old Preston Hollow estate, this Mediterranean-style mansion was on the market for one-and-a-half years before it sold in April 2003. The new owners, who previously lived in a penthouse, went looking for a piece of land and settled on this 1.09-acre lot with mature azaleas and crepe myrtles, oh, and a 14,000-square-foot house. The 18-year-old home features five bedrooms, a playroom, office, custom home theater, three kitchenettes, temperature-controlled wine closet, six-car garage, as well as a pool styled after a Mediterranean lagoon.

10. 4524 Park Ln., Dallas
LISTING PRICE: $3.95 million

Realtors: Rand Sale, Keller-Williams (listing agent); Betsy Stern, Briggs-Freeman (selling agent)
This contemporary Mediterranean in Old Preston Hollow was one of renowned local architect Bud Oglesby’s last projects. The new owner, who is based in California and owns several other houses, was looking for a contemporary residence in Dallas. This 7,812-square-foot estate, which includes five bedrooms; seven-and-a-half baths; a four-car garage; two fireplaces; a walk-in wet bar in the den; a temperature-controlled wine cellar that stores 3,000-plus bottles; and billiard room, fit the bill.


HOME SWEET SOLD HOME      A breakdown of all properties sold between June 1, 2002, and June 1, 2003. Source: NTREIS

Average Number of Days on Market
Dallas County 80
Collin County 93
Tarrant County 108
Kaufman County 91

Average Square Footage
Dallas County 2,223
Collin County 4,064
Tarrant County 2,794
Kaufman County 1,901

Average Price per Square Foot
Dallas County $97.62
Collin County $83.12
Tarrant County $71.37
Kaufman County $68.94

Number of Homes Sold
Dallas County 18,244
Collin County 8,108
Tarrant County 14,654
Kaufman County 597

Market Report
We asked some of the top-producing Realtors in the city for their take on Dallas million-dollar home market.
by Alisse Wobser

How long does a million-dollar house stay on the market?
Currently, I’d say six months, says Joe Kobell of Ebby Halliday Realtors. But it depends on three things: where it is, the condition it’s in, and if it’s priced competitively with other properties. Dave Perry-Miller of Adleta & Poston agrees that a property must be accurately priced to sell quickly. Since May, when we’ve listed properties for more than $1 million, they’ve stayed on the market up to 30 days. If the price isn’t in line, they stay on the market until the price is reduced “60 to 90 days, on average. Both agree, however, that the more expensive the home, the longer it stays on the market due to a smaller pool of qualified and interested buyers.

Who’s buying these homes?
Today’s million-dollar homeowners are younger than in the past. It’s amazing to me, but these buyers are generally in their early 40s, says Joe Kobell. They’ve been in an industry or business where they’ve done well. Dave Perry-Miller believes that the buying habits of this generation will have an effect on the market in the future: They make a generous down payment and tend to choose a 15-year fixed mortgage with a great interest rate. I think this will be interesting in five to 10 years “we’re going to see a whole group of people who’ve built up quite a bit of equity in these 15-year mortgages.

How can you boost a high-end property’s value to $1 million?
The answer from every Realtor was a resounding, remodel your kitchen and bath. Carole Hoffman of Ellen Terry Realtors adds that you should make it show-quality. Paint where needed, add flowering plants outside, keep up with general maintenance, and have the windows washed, she says. Dave Perry-Miller also advises thinking about aesthetics. Properties that have tremendous buyer appeal because of their visual presentation always command higher premiums.


Are Big Houses A Bad Thing?
A conversation with Dallas commentator Lee Cullum about million-dollar mansions, tiny lots, and Noel Coward.

D Home: Like so many modern American cities, Dallas has a reputation for McMansions. Are these houses getting a bad rap just because they’re big?

Lee: It is often more a question of whether the size and proportions of a house fit its surroundings. When Renzo Piano, the designer of the Nasher Sculpture Center, was drawing plans for a museum for Dominique de Menil in a quiet neighborhood in Houston, she told him that she wanted a big museum that looked small. What he gave her is a jewel of discretion that houses an extensive collection of 20th-century art without overwhelming the neighborhood. It shelters some of the most important works of surrealism without being surreal itself.

D Home: But is it plausible to expect a person of means to build or live in less of a home just because other homes in the neighborhood are smaller in scale?

Lee: Ray Nasher’s own Howard Meyer-designed house is a prime example of elegant simplicity and restraint. When he wanted to rework his home after his wife Patsy died, he was shocked to hear his architect, Ernest A. Grunsfeld III, FAIA, of Chicago, insist that it be leveled. Instead, Nasher preserved his homestead and added a library, sitting room, office, and small gallery. What resulted is a house whose distinction lies in the beauty of its lines and details, rather than the number of square feet “not to mention the sculptural masterpieces inside and out. In North Dallas, his daughter Nancy and her husband David Haemisegger live with their three children in a far larger house, which was expanded by Frank Welch. Equally impressive in contemporary composition, this architecture expresses our own time without affronting its neighbors from another age.

D Home: What does it take for a larger home to succeed?

Lee: The Nasher-Haemisegger house succeeds for two reasons: proportion and siting, both too often missing in the outsized spreads of Dallas. To see these twin aspects done well, go to Lakeside Drive in Highland Park. There the houses are grand and stately and greatly to be admired in the proportion their elements bear to each other. The Lakeside houses stand in felicitous proportion to their setting. Like Ray Nasher, these owners understand that few big houses are truly great without a great garden, and the azaleas they present to the world each spring are an enormous gift to passersby.

There are many houses that aspire to greatness but it eludes them because they’re sitting on lots that constrict and embarrass, lots that worked well for earlier occupants but cannot be stretched to accommodate the encroachment of more commodious dwellings.

Beautiful sites tend to produce beautiful houses, not only on Lakeside but also on Stonebridge Drive and Arrowhead Drive and in Bluffview, where homes of all sizes live joyfully together, confident that they speak the same language. It is nondescript properties that tempt their owners with Brobdingnagian solutions.

D Home: Tearing down is often oversimplified as a terrible evil. Is there something intrinsically wrong with starting new?

Lee: It’s poignant really, all the tearing down and building up again done in Dallas. E.M. Forster touched on it in his novel, Howards End. This is the imaginative poverty of the middle class, he wrote.They accumulate possessions, but they never put down roots in the earth. That’s what many are desperate to remedy today in their exaggerated houses. They yearn to put down roots in the earth, even if they’ve left themselves little earth to contemplate.

Sometimes the dwellings they demolish are no loss at all. But sometimes they are. About these Forster said, You have destroyed the precious distillation of the ages, and nothing can bring it back again.
D Home: But just as all big houses are not bad, all older homes are not good. How do we make room for the new in Dallas?

Lee: One community that’s working hard to preserve the precious distillation of the ages is Greenway Parks. The homeowners have persuaded the Dallas City Council to make Greenway Parks a conservation district with special zoning restrictions. Houses can be redone or torn down, but what is built in their place must bear some resemblance to the square footage and contours of the original dwelling. The neighbors hope this will preserve the character of the neighborhood with its lovely, livable houses. 
D Home: What do you think of the trend towards contemporary houses? Is this a new fad following Dallas’ love affair with all things French?

Lee: There’s a new house in Highland Park that breaks all of the rules but still succeeds. It’s the one belonging to Dan and Gail Cook. Devoted to modern architecture, Dan and Gail have created a structure so exciting, so compelling in its materials and classical in its proportions, that even staunch traditionalists must forgive them everything. Designed by Nagle Hartray of Chicago, working with former associate Robert Neylan, also of Chicago, the architectural design creates such a bold and dramatic presence that it will join the houses of Deedie and Rusty Rose (designed by Antoine Predock), Cindy and Howard Rachofsky (Richard Meier) and Charles and Jessie Price (Stephen Holl), among others, as one of the finest examples of contemporary residential building in Dallas.

Built around an atrium with reflecting pool, the Cook house, for all its iconoclastic tendencies (or so they seem to the conventional eye), has the same setback and side margins as its neighbors. Nor is it any taller than others on the street. It manages to be a big house with a façade of reasonable size (the Renzo Piano idea) by going down to basement level for a complete third floor. Dan and Gail also dug down about 450 feet to construct a geothermal system for heating and cooling. Hence the absence of trees in the front, except along the street. But that’s no matter. The splendid symmetry of the structure achieved with metal panels and spider glass will work better with a stretch of uncluttered green.

Contemporary architecture is like ballet, the violin, and the plays of Noel Coward: you mustn’t try it unless you’re very, very good. Big is not bad. But it’s relentlessly demanding. To build well on a grand scale requires a sure sense of style, a steady understanding of the site, and a gift for understatement.


How to Get the Look
Finishing touches and rich details that will make your house look like a million bucks.
by Alisse Wobser

LEFT TO RIGHT: Set in Stone: Make a statement with Daltile’s 42-inch, water-jet-cut Arbor medallion ($4,000) in all-natural stone. Daltile Tile & Stone Gallery, 2320 LBJ Fwy., Ste. 100. 972-484-0334. www.daltile.comThe Midas Touch: This 24-karat-gold-plated Louis XV-style wall sconce ($10,400) from Charles Style collection  is one of several reissued pieces first made when the company was founded in 1908. Baker Knapp & Tubbs, 1250 Slocum St., Ste. 790. 214-741-2586. To the trade only. Cooking with Gas: Even if you can’t boil an egg, you can get the gourmet look with Viking’s 36-inch-wide dual fuel range ($6,200 without accessories). Stone Appliance, 5212 Airport Fwy., Fort Worth. 817-429-0777; 1900 S. Main St., Ste. 110, Grapevine. 817-410-7866. www.stoneappliance.com.

Hot Item: How can something so undeniably cool keep your towels so warm? Gavotte towel warmer (price upon request). Pierce Hardware, 6823 Snider Plaza. 214-368-2851; 6869 Green Oaks Rd., Ste. B, Fort Worth. 817-737-9090. No More Dry Rye: Bulthaup’s terra cotta bread bin ($400) keeps your bread fresh by slowly releasing moisture. The lid doubles as a cutting board. Bulthaup, 1617 Hi Line Dr., Ste. 200. 214-752-2000. www.bulthaup.com. Java Jive: Clear counter space (and add modern style) with Miele’s built-in coffee system in stainless steel ($2,000). Jarrell Appliance Gallery, 2651 Fondren Dr. 214-363-7211. www.jarrellco.com.

On A Pedestal: We love Sherle Wagner’s new Egg and Dart pedestal sink (price upon request). Hargett Showrooms, 1025 N. Stemmons Fwy., Ste. 740. 214-747-9600. To the trade only. Silk Traders: Fusion wall sconce ($450) by Fine Art Lamps in oxidized bronze, covered in hand-crafted dupioni silk. Meletio, 10930 Harry Hines Blvd. 214-352-3900; 1444 Preston Forest Sq. 972-239-2671. www.meletio.com. Crowning Glory: The lion’s head corbel and acanthus-and-dentil molding on this mantel by White River Hardwoods (price upon request) light up the room “even without a fire. Architectural Carpentry Materials, 6025 Denton Dr. 214-350-1341.

Multitasker: Watch a movie, check on your napping baby, dim the lights, change the thermostat, and surf the Internet with Crestron’s TPS-6000 touch panel ($11,000 for touch panel only; part of a larger system). Home Cinema & Sound, 7408 Centenary Ave. 214-691-1263. www.hcands.tv. Glass with Class: Bosch’s DKE 9505 vent hood ($1,200) proves that you can’t go wrong with stainless steel and glass. Freed Appliance Distributors, 3025 N. Great Southwest Pkwy., Grand Prairie. 972-660-8484. www.freedappliance.com. Supreme Design: The modern lines of KWC’s Suprimo faucet ($600) could turn cleaning up into a hobby rather than a chore. TKO Associates, 1617 Hi Line Dr., Ste. 230. 214-741-6060.

Blast Off: Inspired by an old desk fan the company’s president found at an architectural salvage store, Ellington’s Rocket fan ($625) is modern with just a hint of retro. Ellington, 3401 W. Trinity Blvd., Grand Prairie. 972-641-3015. www.ellingtonfans.com.


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